Predicting the Future (Darwin College Lectures)

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9780521413237: Predicting the Future (Darwin College Lectures)

Whether there is a future to predict is not a question many people care to think about too deeply, though the process of predicting the future has itself a history. We did not always predict from the same assumptions as we do now, or for the same reasons. Today, on the basis of empirical observation and scientific theory, accredited experts and specialists forecast the economy, the social consequences of medical innovation and even what will happen to the universe in billions of years time. In the past soothsayers, priests, oracles and comets foretold the future on the basis of religious ideology and traditional authority. In a remarkable series of thought-provoking essays the authors examine both approaches and their consequences and chart our continuing attempts to see beyond the present.

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Book Description:

Auguries, oracles, omens ... and software simulation. From antiquity to the electronic age, Predicting the Future examines humankind's obsessive urge to look beyond the present in the hope of controlling events in the days to come with contributions from such well known authors as Stephen Hawking and Don Cupitt.

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Auguries, oracles, omens...and software simulation. From antiquity to the electronic age, Predicting the Future examines humankind's obsessive urge to look beyond the present in the hope of controlling events in the days to come. Opening with Stephen Hawking's predictions about the billion year future of the universe, closing with Don Cupitt's insights into the Last Judgement, the book examines both the history of prediction and the ways we set about foretelling the future today. In the past soothsayers, diviners, holy men and astrologers made prophecies on the basis of religious ideology and traditional authority. Today accredited experts predict the future, of the economy, of medicine's place in society, of the entire universe, on the basis of empirical observation and scientific theory. Yet as all the contributors admit, prediction remains an uncertain business even in the computer age, steering a hazardous course between scaremongering and complacency, liable always to be thrown dramatically off course by human unpredictability, catastrophic change, or faulty initial data. The book originates in the sixth annual series of Darwin College Lectures, delivered in Cambridge in 1991 under the title 'Predictions'. The contributors include Leo Howe on Predicting the Future; Stephen Hawking on The Future of the Universe; Ian Stewart on Chaos; Simon Schaffer on Comets; Frank Hahn on the Economy; Ian Kennedy on Medicine; Averil Cameron on Divine Providence in Antiquity; Richard Gombrich on Buddhist Prediction; and Don Cupitt on the Last Judgement.

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